Life, Cancer and the Color Green


Green can be a beautiful color full of life, but it can also be the color of chemotherapy.

The leaves have quietly appeared, fresh and bright. And the grass is the color of neon green. On Saturday, liberated from our work week, we walk on muddy trails surrounded by this beautiful forest. All is well.

The next day, I see a woman in Macy’s with no hair and a greenish face. I think to myself, “I’ve been there.” She is battling a disease that could kill her. She is chemo green. Might as well be army green.

Why did I get so lucky? It’s been six years since my first fight with cancer and a year since my second. They tell me they got it all. I have to believe them. I ask my oncologist, “What if the cancer is down there, growing.” I point to what’s left of my right breast.

“You’d feel pain,” she says.

When she’s not curing cancer, my oncologist watches birds. She travels to distant countries in South America and hides in bushes and using binoculars, follows strange colorful creatures with her eyes. I’m sure she wears some kind of camouflage. Some kind of dirty green suit that keeps her hidden so she can get a better look.

Springtime green, chemo green, army green, bird-watching green.

Green is a beautiful color, but not when it’s the color of your face, and not when you’re a soldier being shot at. When you’re out in the forest enjoying the foliage or communing with birdies, it’s not so bad.

The metaphor is old but apt; the cancer patient is at war with the cancer cells that are trying to destroy her. The chemo drugs weaken her; there go her fingernails. Her hair falls out. And (not to be repetitive) her face turns a sickening green.

Thank God for my oncologist. My funny, silly doctor who says she’s the only oncologist in Akron who will hook up your bra when she’s done examining you. Who tells you straight out, “I am pumping you with poison to kill the cancer.” Who says when your hair grows back curly, “I gave you that curly hair, didn’t I?”

Thank God she has a creative outlet to clear her mind from the war on this disease. Getting out into deep nature with our fine feathered friends keeps her happy.

Thank God she’s a world-class cancer expert.

I think, “Will the lady in Macy’s be so lucky? Will she survive?”

“Does her oncologist watch birds?”

I consider speaking to the chemo green woman, telling her that I’ve been where she is, at war, but I’m too shy. I’m not feeling any comradery between myself and her. Aren’t cancer patients supposed to support each other?

But it’s too painful. I don’t want to go back to my green, bald days. Those days of fatigue and malaise.

So I simply slip past her and head over to the bedspread department, where I consider a 10-piece bed-in-a bag set on sale. At $69.00, it is a terrific bargain. And lo and behold, there is a green set.

Green, the color of life. But sometimes the color of chemo, of war, of bird watching camouflage.

Luckily, I can find it in my heart to love the beautiful neon green grass that’s coming up in the spring. I do not hate green. It’s all part of the process, the process of staying alive in small town Akron, Ohio.

Related Videos
Image of a woman with black hair.
Image of a woman with brown shoulder-length hair in front of a gray background that says CURE.
Sue Friedman in an interview with CURE
Catrina Crutcher in an interview with CURE